ELF Expansion: Koç Rams Istanbul join the European League of Football

The Koç Rams of Istanbul have agreed to join the European League of Football for the 2022 season. The addition of the Istanbul franchise brings the league total to twelve teams in five countries.

League managing director Zeljko Karajica commented on the addition of the Rams franchise:

We are very happy to have reached an agreement with the Koç Rams. Istanbul is an international metropolis and therefore a highly exciting location that will enrich the European League of Football. As a league, we are also tapping into a very interesting market.”

The Koç Rams have long been the dominant American football team in Turkey winning the national title four consecutive seasons from 2016-2019. The Rams only lost one league game during that time. Founded in 2004, the Rams have often sought out international play competing in the Central European Football League (CEFL) tournament facing top teams from Italy, Sweden, Russia, and Poland. The Turkish powerhouse rose to runners-up in the CEFL in 2018.

League commissioner Patrick Esume on the Rams on-field performance:

”Istanbul not only has a well- established team, behind it there is also a functioning organization with great youth work. I am convinced that they will play a good role directly.”

The Koç Rams team has been largely financed by Turkish businessman Ali Koç. The former banker is the president of Fenerbahce S.K IstanbulFenerbahce S.K is one of the country’s premier multi-professional sports clubs. It includes Turkey’s top soccer team that has competed in the UEFA Europa League and Champions League in the past. The club also features professional volleyball, track, rowing, swimming, Esports, and a Euroleague basketball team. The sports-centric businessman was estimated to have a net worth of over eight billion dollars in 2016.

European League of Football commissioner Patrick Esume has been hinting at an Istanbul-based team for months whenever discussing the league’s expansion. The city that straddles both Asia and Europe is a good distance east of Germany. However, the financial potential is an exciting prospect as the league will be rewarded by having a team in a city with a population of over 15 million residents which means ELF will have a franchise in Europe’s largest city.

The “city of seven hills” has long been rumored as an expansion destination. The addition of the Koç Rams gives Europe’s fastest-growing league its fourth expansion team in the last month. But there is, it would seem, even more to come.

Karajica commented on the potential for further league expansion:

“We are very well positioned for next year but continue to be in promising talks to further expand the European League of Football. It is quite possible that we will enter the 2022 season with 14 or even 16 franchises. We’re giving ourselves until November, then we’ll draw up the final game plan and start selling tickets before Christmas,” 

With room for growth, London, Paris, and Amsterdam have all been discussed by commissioner Esume and other league officials as landing spots for potential ELF teams. Expect commissioner Esume and company to keep ELF in the news all off-season as they prepare to build on a successful inaugural season.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and